Entertainment & Arts

Documentary pioneer Richard Leacock dies at 89

John F Kennedy during the 1960 presidential campaign
Image caption Leacock said Primary, about the 1960 presidential campaign, came close to "the feeling of being there"

British observational documentary maker Richard Leacock, who filmed John F Kennedy on his 1960 presidential campaign, has died at the age of 89.

Leacock, a pioneer of unobtrusive camera technique Cinema Verite, died at his home in Paris on Wednesday.

He solved the puzzle of how to sync speech and video by inventing a system using US-made Bulova watches.

His work on films like the 1960 Kennedy film Primary paved the way for new wave directors such as Jean-Luc Godard.

Al Maysles, who also shot the Robert Drew-produced Primary, paid tribute to his colleague's "poetic eye behind the camera" which, he said, "gave him access to anybody because they sensed they could trust him".

"I could see his hands on the camera, cradling it in such a way that he could take good care of the people he was filming," Maysles added.

Interviewed about the making of the film, Leacock once said the film-makers were "enormously excited" to have come close to producing "the feeling of being there".

"On the first day Bob Drew, Al Maysles and I walked into the photo studio where Kennedy was having his portrait taken and just shot what happened - they ignored us," he said.

He also worked on other notable documentaries including 1966 film A Stravinsky Portrait and Monterey Pop, about the legendary 1967 festival which featured performances from acts such as The Mamas and the Papas, Jimi Hendrix and The Who.

Leacock, whose memoir will be published this summer, is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter.

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